The Key to the Indian
by Lynne Reid Banks
In a way, the fifth book in the adventures of Omri and Little Bear picks up right where The Mystery of the Cupboard
left off. But then again, it is quite different from all the other books in the series that began with The Indian in the Cupboard
In case you missed the earlier books, the idea of the series is that Omri, an English boy, has a magic bathroom cupboard and a magic key that, together, can turn plastic toys into the real thing. And when the plastic toys are shaped like people, actual human beings from history come to visit, shrunk down to three inches tall. Among the several little friends Omri has, the most important is Little Bear, a Mohawk "pine chief" from 18th century New York.
Omri's father is in on the secret now. And Little Bear has asked them to come back to his time and help his people in a time of crisis. The first part of the story, then, is the whole adventure of how they figure out how to go back to Little Bear's time. Along the way, a bit more of the mystery of Omri's great-great-aunt Jessica Charlotte is cleared up, Omri and Gillon have a hair-raising adventure in early Twentieth Century India, and Omri's dad experiences his own worst nightmare in Little Bear's village. And it also turns out that some of the magic is in Omri himself, in his blood.
Finally everything is set for the father-son pair to go back together, but Omri has to make a deal with his strong-willed friend Patrick to make it possible. And while Patrick is up to who knows what mischief in Omri's family's Dorsetshire longhouse, Omri and his father find Little Bear at his rope's end in what may be the last Mohawk longhouse. Without meddling too much in history, they need to help Little Bear make a decision which will determine whether his people become extinct, or lose their culture, or somehow overcome the odds at a time when the white man was driving the Iroquois nations off their land.
It's a very exciting, moving, and sometimes infuriating tale, marked (in contrast to the earlier books in the series) by Ms. Banks' meticulous research and uncompromising depiction of just who was "civilized" and who was "savage." So besides being a story with deeply engaging characters and riveting drama, it also speaks to the conscience-- piercingly, even horrifyingly, and in a way that challenges traditional views on the colonial period in America (and, for that matter, in India).
The final message for Omri may not be for Omri alone. Guess his dream!
Recommended Age: 10+
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